So far the west has not been too kind to the Panthers. This will be their final road game and it won’t be an easy one. The heartbreaking drop to the LA Kings this past Thursday 2-1 has to still sting. They outplayed the Kings but ran into hot goalie Jonathan Quick. Unfortunately, they must skate into HP Pavilion and face another hot goalie – Antii Niemi.
Niemi while statistically falls mid-level in the NHL with a GAA of 2.38 ranking him 20th and a SV% of .921 ranking him 18th in the league are deceiving. The Panthers should not underestimate Niemi. I like to think of him as the Tim Tebow of hockey “All he does is win”. Pressure means nothing to this cool fish.
I would think that the Panthers got a scouting report on him from former Chicago Blackhawks – Campbell, Versteeg & Kopecky who all had to face Niemi almost daily in practice when they were all in Chicago. If they did not I will assit to the best of my knowledge in this area. If Niemi has a weakness it is high, forget getting anything past him low it is futile. Also his rebound control is sometimes suspect so get people to the slot area or in front of the net. I try to do anything for this team.
The Sharks (14-7-1) are currently in 13th place overall in the league with 29 points. The Panthers (13-8-4) are in 10th place in the league with their 30 points sitting atop the Southeast Division. The Sharks are coming off of a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadians and in their last 10 games their record is 7-3. The Sharks have a big differential of GF/GA 5 on 5 so it is crucial that the Cats stay with them or the Sharks could rack up an insurmountable lead. The 5 on 5 is where the Cats have been lacking.
The Sharks are also very good on the power-play as well so the Panthers need to stay out of the penalty situation. If possible they need to get the Sharks to commit the penalties because this is the area where they are vulnerable. Their PK is horrible. They are currently ranking at 28th in the league so the Panthers need to take advantage if they can here.
I highly recommend catching this game as it could tell us how the Panthers would match up if they ever have to face a Western Conference team in a Stanley Cup finals.
Panthers Fans 10:30 local puck drop and can catch the game on FS F or if you can catch on radio 560 WQAM. San Jose fans – 7:30 puck drop or catch the game on CSN CA.
- Sean Bergenheims’ hit on LA Kings Mike Richards was reviewed and deemed clean by the league.
- Also on the trade front the Cats got center James Wright and defenseman Mike Vernance from the Lightning for AHL defenseman Mike Kostka and Evan Oberg.
- The Panthers will be without Matt Bradley (upper body), Scottie Upshall (hip) and Marcel Goc (Upper body) Mikael Samuelsson (groin).
- Sharks will be without back-up goalie Antero Niittymaki (hip)
- Kris Versteeg will be back in the lineup for the Panthers. He was out with head injury and possible neck injury due to hit he sustained in Kings game from Derek Joslin whose hit was deemed clean by the league to the justified displeasure of Versteeg.